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Trump turns clock back 155 years with Confederacy-inspired election strategy

Trump’s behavior in recent days has been marked by calls to preserve statues of Confederate generals who took up arms against the United States and defending their memory, even threatening to veto a must-pass defense spending bill to do so. It’s all in character for a politician whose career began with a racist conspiracy against former President Barack Obama and who ran his 2016 campaign as a counter-cultural reaction to the country’s first Black president. Trump has also retreated to racial equivocation when his turbulent presidency ran into trouble.
Were the rest of his term not such a riot of outrage and impropriety and had he not spent his life exploiting racial fault lines for personal gain, Trump’s solidifying reelection strategy — rooted in unhealed wounds of the Civil War that ended 155 years ago — would be more of a shock.

And while it’s rooted in his character and ideological core, his campaign tone is also a Hail Mary.

Trump was stripped of the motoring economy on which he had planned to anchor his claims of a return to American greatness by a pandemic that could have showcased the “I Alone Can Fix It” leadership skills of which he boasted four years ago. Instead the crisis exposed his governing method based on chaos, building alternative political realities, ignoring science and lying repeatedly about easily provable facts.

By condemning efforts to pull down the Confederate flag, by portraying a nation locked in a dark feudal struggle against rampant crime, unrest and “far left fascism,” Trump is not just running the most demagogic, polarizing and race-baiting campaign in modern American history. He is betting that the uncanny political insight that powered his 2016 campaign will triumph again over an industry of political consultants, antsy Republican lawmakers and media pundits who see his crushed approval ratings and polls showing him trailing in battleground states as the throes of a doomed campaign.

If that damages the fabric of America, so be it.

Trump cuts against the grain

Trump’s high-risk approach flies in the face of normally cautious institutions averse to racial reckonings that have made their own decision to change course after in some cases concluding continued resistance to chance is bad for business and their brands.

NASCAR, the racing circuit popular in the conservative South, has banned the Confederate flag and stood behind one of its few Black drivers — provoking a searing Trump Twitter attack on Monday. The Mississippi Legislature has passed a bill to cut the stars and bars from its state flag. And the Washington Redskins, which have for years disputed that their famous emblem is racist, are brainstorming for a new name — a sign of the tsunami of change sent through the NFL after Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality.

But against this sudden and sharp cultural sea change, Trump, as he has so often in a gambler’s career in real estate and entertainment, is making the counter-intuitive wager.

He is pinning his hopes for another four years on the idea that his silent majority of voters in rural areas of swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as suburban swing voters, will respond to his warnings. Trump claims that tumbling statues — not just of Confederate leaders — but of more mainstream historical figures with now discredited racial attitudes mean (White) American culture and history is under attack.

It is a strategy that exhumes some of the nation’s most sensitive political arguments, is sure to leave the last semblances of unity shattered for whoever is the next President and could reverberate through national politics for years to come.

Exclusionary patriotism

Trump uses Mount Rushmore address to rail against removal of monuments

Trump’s hardening election strategy was clearly spelled out by the way he used the July Fourth Independence Day weekend — previously one of the few nonpartisan moments in America — as a long running version of the campaign rallies that have been hampered by the coronavirus.

In a fear-laden speech at Mount Rushmore, Trump portrayed multi-racial protesters who took to the street following the killing of George Floyd as an outburst of radical, Marxist anarchy from those who want to “end America.” In blasting a new “far left fascism that demands absolute allegiance,” he warned that those that did not speak its language were liable to be “banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished.”

In effect, Trump’s line was a supercharging of the campaign against what he said was political correctness that helped to underpin his 2016 presidential campaign. But his dark, hyperbolic tone strengthened the impression of an authoritarian, ultra-nationalist spirit that is a strong component of his own politics.

Trump’s speeches in South Dakota and at the White House before the national fireworks display were artful in their way: they contained many references to the Founders, to basic American values and to Abraham Lincoln, as a foundation on which Trump built his argument that American history was under attack. This allowed prominent conservative media voices like the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the National Review to disregard how the inflammatory passage might appear to non-Trump supporters and to praise his weekend offerings as a brace of his greatest speeches.

“The chorus of independent media voices understands that Mr. Trump is trying to rally the country in defense of traditional American principles that are now under radical and unprecedented assault,” the Journal wrote in an editorial.

Fox News then took the opportunity to brand coverage of Trump’s more explosive remarks as an example of media bias — completing the familiar cycle of Trump’s base-pleasing antics.

But Trump practices an exclusionary patriotism. The impression left by his two speeches is that any American who disagrees with his perception of history or who thinks that the historical consequences of slavery and their legacy in a modern society need a sober reexamination is not a proper American at all. While there has been tragedy and sporadic unrest on American streets — six children were killed in gun violence this weekend and there were 44 shootings in New York City while multiple statues have been pulled down, Trump’s apocalyptic vision of life in America is not a widely recognizable one.

Another day of racial controversy

As Trump gaslights America about coronavirus, Republicans face a critical choice

Trump might have been wiser to bask in strong reviews from conservative media. But the President can’t leave well enough alone and often quickly puts those who defend him in an invidious spot. Soon, he was demanding an apology from Black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace after a drama in which racing officials said a noose was found in his team garage. The FBI later concluded that the incident was not a hate crime directed at Wallace.

But Trump accused Wallace of perpetrating a hoax and said the stock car series was suffering its lowest ratings ever for banning its supporters from bringing Confederate flags to raceways.

Thus, Wallace, already in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position — despite strong and moving support from his fellow drivers — found himself dragged as an unwilling victim into Trump’s race-based political campaigning. The NASCAR driver later implored his Twitter followers to “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate.”

He added, “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS.”

Hours later, the President inflamed yet another racial controversy. He lashed out at the Washington Redskins organization and Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians for mulling a name change after years of controversy.

He claimed that the teams were so named to recognize “STRENGTH, not weakness” and added in an ugly racist swipe at the end of the tweet: “Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!”

Then, in a daily press briefing, McEnany refused to denounce the Confederate flag and insisted that Trump “has not given an opinion one way or the other” on the NASCAR ban.

It was just another day on which the President seemed to go out of his way to deliberately court racial controversy.

And given his depressed approval rating — in territory that history suggests will be difficult for him to win reelection — and vulnerable position in swing states he only won by tiny margins over Hillary Clinton four years ago, he appears to be taking a big risk with his hard swing to the right and culture warrior approach.

But only four months from election day, he is betting that he knows the motivations of his base, less affiliated Republican and swing voters and the character of America better than anyone else.

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Following controversial Hong Kong national security law, TikTok is leaving

“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a TikTok spokesperson confirmed to CNN Business. The news was first reported by Reuters.

It is unclear when TikTok — which is owned by Beijing-based startup ByteDance — will exit Hong Kong, and what that will mean for the app’s users in the city. The spokesperson did not respond to a request for further details.

TikTok’s announcement comes after US tech companies Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Google (GOOGL) said they would stop processing Hong Kong government requests for user data while they carry out an assessment of the new law.

The vaguely defined rules broaden the power of officials to investigate, prosecute and punish both foreign nationals and citizens for a range of offenses, such as “inciting hatred” among Hong Kong residents towards mainland China.

New investigative powers also allow police to demand that publishing platforms and internet service providers remove information that undermines national security, according to a government statement published on Monday.

If the publisher fails to cooperate immediately, police could “seize the relevant electronic device and take any action for removing that information as soon as practicable,” the statement said.

The law is a major shift for Hong Kong, which has been run under the “one country, two systems” principle since Britain formally handed authority of the territory back to China in 1997. The internet is not censored in Hong Kong and residents are able to access social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Google, which have been long banned on the mainland.

TikTok is also not available on the mainland, where ByteDance instead markets a Chinese version of the app called Douyin. ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Douyin would be made available to Hong Kong users.

TikTok’s Hong Kong exit comes as the app tries to distance itself from China and ByteDance.

In May, TikTok’s hiring of Disney (DISNEY) veteran Kevin Mayer was widely seen as a move — at least in part — to win over Washington. On Monday night, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States is “looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps.

People should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News.

“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders … here in the US,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.

The app promotes “a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” the spokesperson added.

TikTok has previously said that its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of that data is subject to Chinese law.

The app has exploded in popularity in the United States and other western countries since it launched in 2016, becoming the first Chinese social media platform to gain traction with users outside of its home country. It was downloaded 315 million times in the first three months of this year, more quarterly downloads than any other app in history, according to analytics company Sensor Tower.

But the app has recently hit a roadblock in one of its most important markets.

India last week banned TikTok and other Chinese apps, saying they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.” The ban follows broader, escalating tensions between the two countries following a border clash between the two countries last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

India has been the biggest driver of new TikTok downloads, generating close to 660 million installs since its launch in 2017, according Sensor Tower.

— Eric Cheung, Brian Rokus and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.

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Siberia had its warmest June on record, says Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service

Siberia is one of the coldest areas on Earth, but is currently grappling with intense fires as well as record high temperatures.

The area’s carbon dioxide emissions for June were its highest in the 18 years of the CAMS dataset, eclipsing a record of 53 megatonnes set in June 2019.

“Higher temperatures and drier surface conditions are providing ideal conditions for these fires to burn and to persist for so long over such a large area,” said CAMS senior scientist Mark Parrington.

“We have seen very similar patterns in the fire activity and soil moisture anomalies across the region in our fire monitoring activities over the last few years.”

Siberia also experienced its warmest June on record amid an unprecedented heatwave, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), a program affiliated with the European Commission.

Temperatures in the region were up to 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average in June.

Siberia tends to experience large swings in temperature month-to-month and year-to-year. But temperatures in the region have stayed well above average since 2019, which is unusual.

June temperatures across all of Siberia were more than five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average and more than one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the same month in 2018 and 2019, the two previous warmest Junes.

CS3 estimated that eastern Siberia hit a maximum hourly Arctic temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on June 20. That’s a new high for the Arctic, being one to two degrees Celsius warmer than earlier records set in Alaska in 1969 and in eastern Siberia in 1973.
The Siberian heatwave has also contributed to dropping levels of sea ice, especially in the Arctic Ocean, according to the US’ National Snow and Ice Data Center.

But not all parts of the region have been affected. Western Siberia mainly recorded below-average temperatures last month.

Temperatures in an Arctic Siberian town hit 100 degrees, a new high

The whole planet saw record-topping temperatures last month, tying with 2019 for the warmest June on record, at 0.53 degrees Celsius (0.95 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981-2010 average.

In 2020, Copernicus found that four of the first six months of the year were either the hottest on record globally or tied with previous record temperatures. The exceptions were February and March 2020 which were the second warmest ever recorded globally.

“Finding what caused these record temperatures is not a straightforward endeavor as there are many contributing factors interacting with each other. Siberia and the Arctic Circle in general have large fluctuations from year to year and have experienced other relatively warm Junes before,” said C3S Director Carlo Buontempo. “What is worrisome is that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world.”

“Western Siberia experiencing warmer-than-average temperatures so long during the winter and spring is unusual, and the exceptionally high temperatures in Arctic Siberia that have occurred now in June 2020 are equally a cause for concern,” Buontempo said,
Last month was the hottest May on record, as the world creeps closer to a dangerous threshold

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet through a process known as Arctic amplification.

Arctic ice melt has accelerated, which leads to seasonal snow cover that isn’t as white and absorbs more sunlight, which leads to more warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The melting may already be having dramatic consequences. Last month a catastrophic oil spill in the Siberian city of Norlisk, which resulted in 20,000 tons of fuel spilling into a river, was blamed on permafrost thawing in the Arctic city.

CS3 researchers believe that large-scale wind patterns in Siberia and low snow cover and surface soil moisture may have led to the milder temperatures there this spring.

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Trump’s risky nose-to-nose challenge to China in the South China Sea (opinion)

Two aircraft carrier strike groups headed by the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Nimitz have moved into the South China Sea for the largest military exercises in years just as China has been holding its own drills around the Paracel Islands, which it seized from Vietnam in 1974 in a move the United States has never accepted.
Indeed, there’s been considerable concern in the region that China has used international, particularly American, preoccupation with the Covid-19 pandemic, to reinforce its presence on vast stretches of both the Paracel and Spratly Islands and artificial islands built for clearly military purposes. With China having largely brought its Covid-19 surge under control, it has been able to turn its attentions more directly to this region that Beijing considers central to its own security. This has not escaped US and regional military leaders as well as Trump, who has been eager to paint himself as a China hawk, particularly in television attack ads charging his Democratic challenger Joe Biden is soft on China.
China, for its part, denies it has any new designs over the vast island groups scattered across thousands of square miles in its offshore waters. “There is nothing to support the claim that China is using Covid-19 to expand its presence in the South China Sea,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in May.
Ironically, it’s not the first time Trump tried to use an aircraft carrier strike group to intimidate an Asian power. In April 2017, in an effort to send chills up the spine of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the President puffed to one of his favorite interlocutors, Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business, “We’re sending an armada. Very powerful,” to the waters off North Korea, then elaborated, “He [Kim] is doing the wrong thing. He is making a big mistake.” The only problem was that at that very moment, the USS Carl Vinson group was sailing in exactly the opposite direction, headed for joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles away. Eventually, the “armada” turned around.
The Paracels include more than 130 small coral islands and reefs scattered across some 5,800 square miles, with a total natural land area of just under three square miles. Together with the Spratly islands, they represent not only valuable strategic locations, dominating one of the most heavily-traveled shipping routes in the world, but also sit atop or on the fringe of at least 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of crude oil, with another projected 160 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 12 billion barrels of oil still undiscovered.
China has already invested heavily in building military emplacements, even tourist resorts, at times side by side, but in all cases designed to cement its hold over the region. On Woody Island, the largest in the Paracels, at least a thousand Chinese live alongside a 9,000-foot runway and launch sites for anti-ship cruise missiles with a 250-mile range, particularly the lethal YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missile. In 2017, a colorful artist’s rendering titled “China Dream: Paracel Archipelago—Woody Island future development” also showed a vastly expanded island with skyscrapers, parkland, and a passenger jetliner preparing to land on an extended two-runway airfield. A May 2019 Pentagon report identifies at least eight “Chinese-occupied outposts” with 60 other potential outposts in the Spratlys alone.
It’s this kind of future for the region that the other nations bordering on and laying quite legitimate claim to these islands—Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Brunei—have long sought to restrain. Since Japan and Taiwan particularly, as well as Australia and Singapore have substantial interest in maintaining free flow of shipping traffic through this region, they have been supportive of American efforts to challenge China in the region and uphold the letter and spirit of international law.
But rarely have the two superpowers come into such direct military proximity with significant naval forces than this week. “The purpose [of the planned exercises] is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” said Rear Admiral George Wikoff, the operation’s commander, adding that the maneuvers would include “round-the-clock flights testing the striking ability of carrier-based aircraft.” Indeed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a week before exercises opened, “China cannot be allowed to treat the SCS [South China Sea] as its maritime empire.” A spokesperson for the fleet confirmed that these exercises had been long planned, and were not in response to global events. China itself began five days of drills near the Paracels on Wednesday.
In the past, large-scale American operations in the region have had little dissuasive impact on Chinese activities or Beijing’s unceasing effort to build, reinforce and staff military facilities across the island groups. At the same time, China has pressed ahead with its own efforts to build a blue-water navy capable of challenging American dominance of the Pacific, while cementing its hold over the South China Sea. Andrew S. Erickson of the US Naval War College, one of America’s leading experts on Chinese naval power, has testified to Congress about China’s naval strength, which includes advanced weapons and anti-ship missiles that could take these US aircraft carriers out early in any battle.

The central question is how directly the US wants to challenge a China that is clearly determined to dominate the region by force of arms, threatening an accidental conflict that could quickly, even catastrophically, escalate. Earlier in his presidency Trump proclaimed his ability to negotiate even the thorniest international problem. But today, fighting for his political life in an election where most polls suggest he is trailing badly, he seems to have no interest in negotiating any stand-still agreement with China in the region or guaranteed free passage of ships of all nationalities through and in the South China Sea. A concept a successor, with nothing more to prove, might be prepared to explore.

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2020 election: Trump could sink House GOP in suburbia

Now, recent national and district-level polls signal that many of the well-educated voters souring on Trump are also displaying more resistance to Republican congressional candidates than in 2018 — potentially much more.

That movement could frustrate GOP hopes of dislodging many of the first-term House Democrats who captured previously Republican suburban seats in 2018. It also means Democrats see further opportunities in white-collar House districts — from Pennsylvania and Georgia to Indiana and especially Texas — where the GOP held off the 2018 suburban tide, often only by narrow margins.

“The suburban exodus has continued, and my gut is as long as Trump is identified as the leader of the party, that continues,” says former Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Even if Trump’s strength outside the metro areas allows the GOP to recapture some of the non-urban seats Democrats won last time, Davis warns, further suburban losses could still leave the party in a deeper hole after November.

“You can’t afford that,” says Davis, now a partner in Holland & Knight, a DC law firm. “[Suburbia] was the base of the Republican Party just a decade and a half ago. And there just aren’t enough rural voters to make up for those kind of losses. It means for the Republicans that instead of picking up seats in the House, that the bleeding could continue.”

The NRCC and some GOP consultants say such predictions overstate the party’s risk. They argue that the 2018 Democratic incursions into previously red-leaning suburban districts represented a high-water mark, driven by a greater turnout of Democratic voters than Republican ones during the midterm election. In the larger turnout of the presidential year, they maintain, many of these districts will snap back to their historic Republican leanings and allow both Trump and GOP House candidates to carry them again.

Bob Salera, a spokesperson for the NRCC, says the committee’s baseline assumption for these races is that Trump will run as well in most white-collar districts this year as he did in 2016, when he carried almost all of the new suburban districts Democrats are targeting in November, as well as many of those that the party captured in the 2018 midterms.

“For the most part, what we are seeing is Trump’s standing in these [suburban] districts is fairly close, within a couple points of where it was in the 2016 election,” Salera says. “Trump’s approval right now isn’t much lower, and in some cases in different places is higher, than it was in the 2016 election. Basically, we are looking at those 2016 numbers as a baseline for how the presidential [race] will play out in these districts.”

But Democrats, and even some Republicans, say that polling this spring flatly refutes the assertion that Trump’s position in white-collar House districts has not deteriorated since 2016.

In these suburban districts, “he’s underperforming,” says Robby Mook, president of the House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC. “The House battleground that we are looking at today [is districts] he won in 2016 and he is losing today. That’s just a fact.”

Record number of GOP women winning House primaries, but most face tough fall races
Mook, who served as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, says that all evidence signals that, if anything, the suburban movement away from the GOP under Trump is accelerating, particularly as the President turns toward more culturally and racially divisive messages aimed at his non-urban base.

“There was this seismic shift in American politics in 2016 that advanced in 2018 and is continuing to advance now,” Mook says.

In recent weeks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other party groups have publicly released or privately circulated polls that show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, often by substantial margins, in a wide array of well-educated districts, including many that Trump carried in 2016. The NRCC has discounted these polls as wishful thinking but has released very few of its own surveys this year, and none in the districts Democrats have spotlighted.

What the polls find

Public polling this spring consistently showed Trump and the GOP facing grim numbers with well-educated voters. National surveys released in the past few weeks by Monmouth University, the Pew Research Center and CNN all showed Trump’s approval rating among White voters with at least a four-year college education sinking to 33% or less, with at least 64% disapproving.

By comparison, even during the 2018 Democratic sweep, exit polls found that 38% of college-educated White voters approved of Trump’s job performance, according to results provided by Edison Research, which conducts the exit polls for a consortium of news organizations that includes CNN.

That decline contrasted with Trump’s showing among minorities in the new CNN and Monmouth polls, which found the President’s approval rating with voters of color was almost exactly the same as in the 2018 exit poll, just over 1-in-4 in each case.

Republican internal polling signals a Democratic rout
The Monmouth and CNN polls and a national New York Times/Siena College survey all found Biden leading Trump among well-educated White voters by about 30 percentage points, a much bigger advantage than any data source on the 2016 results recorded for Clinton. (The exit polls showed Trump narrowly carrying those college-plus White voters.)
Critically, some of the recent public surveys found that weakness trickling down to GOP congressional candidates. In last week’s Monmouth survey, college-educated White voters preferred Democrats over Republicans in House races by a resounding 59% to 36%.
If that disparity held through November, it would represent a huge deterioration for Republicans since 2018, when the exit polls showed Democratic House candidates nationwide carrying those voters by 8 percentage points, about one-third as much. (That came after the exit polls made a methodology change that analysts believe provided a more accurate estimate of the vote among college- and non-college Whites than in previous years.)
Even the more modest swing among well-educated voters that exit polls recorded in 2018 was sufficient to fundamentally reconfigure the House battlefield. The Democratic wave that year crested highest in well-educated and often racially diverse urban and suburban districts. Before that election, Republicans held 43% of the House districts where the share of people 25 and older with at least a four-year college degree exceeded the national average, according to a CNN analysis of the 2018 results.

But now Republicans hold only 23% of such seats, according to a new analysis of results from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey conducted by CNN senior visual editor Janie Boschma. In all, Democrats control 135 of the House districts with higher-than-average college education levels, while Republicans hold just 41. (Those numbers reflect the new district lines drawn under court order in Pennsylvania, but not the new lines that state courts have approved in North Carolina.)

Many of the top Democratic House targets for November are within those remaining 41 Republican districts with more college graduates than average, including incumbent Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, Ann Wagner in Missouri, Chip Roy in Austin, Don Bacon in Nebraska, David Schweikert in Arizona and Steve Chabot in Ohio, as well as opportunities in open seats around Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Raleigh, North Carolina. Several more potentially vulnerable GOP seats (including those held by incumbent Reps. Rodney Davis in Illinois, John Katko in New York and Scott Perry in Pennsylvania) come in just below the average education line.

The flip side is also true: Many of the Democrats elected in 2018 who Republicans most hope to oust hold seats in districts with many more college graduates than average, including Reps. Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred in Texas, Sharice Davids in Kansas, Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens in Michigan, Lucy McBath in Georgia, Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, Tom Malinowski in New Jersey and all the newly elected Democrats from Orange County, California.

Top, from left to right: Democratic Reps. Colin Allred, Sharice Davids, Lizzie Fletcher and Tom Malinowski. Bottom, from left to right: Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath, Elissa Slotkin, Abigail Spanberger and Haley Stevens. All were elected in 2018 in House districts that have many more college graduates than the national average.

In 2016, when exit polls showed Trump running more competitively among college-educated White voters, he won many of the white-collar districts on both lists. With far fewer voters than in earlier generations splitting their tickets between presidential and House candidates, the outcome in many of them may be tipped by whether he does so again.

Perhaps the best test of Trump’s standing in white-collar districts will come in Texas, which Republicans have dominated since the early 1990s. Even in 2016, the state was only marginally competitive, with Trump beating Clinton there by 9 percentage points or nearly 800,000 votes. But in 2018, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke rode a surge of support in Texas’ big metropolitan areas — he won its five largest counties by about six times as much as Barack Obama did in 2012 — to hold Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to a victory of only about 2.5 percentage points. Democrats rode O’Rourke’s strong performance to sweeping gains in state legislative and local elections across urban and suburban areas, as well as the election of Fletcher and Allred.

“In Texas, the Democrats performed about as well in the suburbs in 2018 as they’ve done in 20 or 25 years,” says Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant and GOP chair in Travis County (Austin).

Democrats see opportunities

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee built on that beachhead by investing early in serious challenges in a number of Republican-held House districts, most of them better educated than average. The party’s best Texas pickup opportunity is the heavily minority but relatively less-college-educated West Texas seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Will Hurd.

After that the Democrats’ top targets are all districts that combine substantial racial diversity with large numbers of college graduates, including open seats in the suburbs of Dallas and Houston and challenges to GOP incumbent Reps. Chip Roy and, somewhat more distantly, Michael McCaul in districts that sprawl south from Austin through more conservative rural communities.

All of those seats have followed the white-collar movement toward the Democrats evident in other areas of the country since 2016. Except for the seat Hurd is vacating, Trump won the rest of those districts last time. But he did not exceed 52% of the vote in any of them, in each case carrying far less of the vote that Mitt Romney had done there in 2012.

In 2018, O’Rourke narrowly won the McCaul district and the Dallas open seat and fell short by less than 1 percentage point in both the Roy and open Houston-area seat, according to a recent analysis by J. Miles Coleman of the Sabato’s Crystal Ball election website. (In all, O’Rourke won or finished within 5 points of Cruz in 10 congressional districts now held by Republicans, and some of those other seats are beginning to secure late interest from Democrats as well.)

Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democratic nominee for the open seat in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston, was also the party’s candidate in 2018. A former foreign service officer who did not launch his campaign until January 2018, Kulkarni lost that year by 5 percentage points to Republican Pete Olson, who retired rather than seek reelection again after that close call.

GOP House incumbents are leaving at a record pace

Kulkarni says the climate for Democrats in the district is more favorable now and that Trump is “absolutely” weaker than he was there even two years ago. Under Trump, Kulkarni says, Republicans “are not looking for a broad coalition, they are focusing on a very small but intense coalition and they are leaving out the suburbs.” Nearly 46% of the district’s residents hold at least a four-year college degree and racial minorities compose a majority of its population, with immigrants representing nearly 1-in-4 residents, census figures show.

Kulkarni’s race captures another critical element of the battle for these white-collar districts. Many of them are in metropolitan areas at the epicenter of this year’s twin national earthquakes: the coronavirus outbreak and the eruption of protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s funeral was held just across the border in Harris County, which has emerged as one of the centers of the outbreak, with a surging caseload (more than 36,000 as of Monday) that officials warn may soon overwhelm its hospital system.

Kulkarni has been unflinching in criticizing Trump on both fronts; he told me he considers the President’s response to the Floyd protests a “threat to American values” and Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak “the biggest failure of leadership in the government” he has ever seen.

From the outset, Kulkarni’s two potential Republican opponents (the nominee will be decided in a runoff next week) have dueled over which supports Trump more. Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, the front-runner, derided an earlier attempt by Harris County officials to require mask-wearing as “unnecessary, unconstitutional, and unAmerican … an unprecedented overreach which looks more like a communist dictatorship than a free Republic.”
(After GOP Gov. Greg Abbott last week imposed a statewide mask requirement, Nehls did not criticize him but suggested in a statement that he considered it unnecessary in Fort Bend. “The Governor’s going to do what he’s going to do to combat this virus statewide but this virus isn’t affecting everyone the same,” said campaign spokesman Nick Maddux.)
And neither Nehls nor rival Kathaleen Wall has dissented from Trump as he’s escalated his attacks on the protests and protesters, such as calling Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate.”

Trump’s increasingly polarizing strategy for reelection helps explain why many strategists in both parties believe it will be difficult for as many House candidates as in the past to win in districts that vote for the other party in the presidential contest. That may help Republican challengers against Democratic incumbents in blue-collar and rural districts where Trump has been stronger, such as Reps. Collin Peterson in Minnesota, Jared Golden in Maine and Abby Finkenauer in Iowa. But it looms as a huge challenge for the GOP in these suburban areas.

Carlos Curbelo, a former GOP representative who lost his urban Miami district during the 2018 Democratic sweep, agrees it will be tough for the party’s candidates to escape the undertow if Trump doesn’t improve his position in those places.

“It’s almost impossible,” he says. “All candidates [are] encouraged to run their own races and maneuver however it is they need to in order to win. But with this heavy overlay, it’s very difficult. The space in which to maneuver is very tight.”

Like the NRCC’s Salera, GOP consultant Mackowiak says he believes Trump will perform better in these suburban districts than the party did in 2018. While Mackowiak believes that “if it’s a referendum on Trump he’s going to get killed in the suburbs,” he maintains the President can win back previously red-leaning college-educated voters by tying Biden and Democratic House candidates to liberal ideas such as the Green New Deal and single-payer health care that might advance under unified Democratic control of government.

Supreme Court says states can punish Electoral College voters

Still, Mackowiak acknowledges that if 2020 produces an electoral divide in Texas similar to the one in the 2018 Senate race — with Trump holding the state by maximizing rural turnout while suffering huge losses in the big metro areas — it will “be a category five political hurricane” for local Republicans.

“The state House will be gone,” he said. “We will lose three or four congressional seats. That’s an unthinkable scenario.”

Yet many observers in both parties believe that’s exactly what the November election may produce in virtually every state: a widening trench between the preponderantly White small-town and rural areas that remain bonded to Trump and a deepening recoil from him in the diverse and well-educated urban and suburban population centers.

Trump may be comfortable with that trade since he is trying only to finesse one more Electoral College victory even if he loses the popular vote again. But many Republicans say Trump’s vision of squeezing bigger margins out of shrinking places at the cost of generating more resistance in communities that are growing is a losing long-term trajectory for the party. Nowhere is that more true than in the battle for control of the US House.

“It’s a strategy that is divorced from the reality of the country,” says Curbelo. “And there are Republican leaders in both chambers who are aware of this. This is not an important [consideration in] the President’s strategy because in his team’s mind they only have to win one more election. But for everyone else it’s a longer-term game. A lot of Republicans have been willing to be shortsighted and taken what they can get from the Trump era. But ultimately they know this is not the future of the party.”

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Patrick Mahomes signs most lucrative sports deal in history, agent says

The 10-year extension is reportedly worth $450 million dollars. ESPN was first to report on the terms of the contract, followed by NFL Network. The extension brings the total potential value of Mahomes’ current contract to as much as $503 million between the 2020 and 2031 NFL seasons, according to ESPN and NFL Network.

In a post on Instagram, Mahomes’ agent Chris Cabott touted the historic nature of the massive contract. “First half billion dollar player in sports history. Largest contract in sports history. First time NFL player has been the highest paid player in sports history,” Cabott wrote alongside a picture of Mahomes signing the contract.

“This is a significant moment for our franchise and for the Chiefs Kingdom,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. “Since he joined the Chiefs just a few years ago, Patrick has developed into one of the most prolific athletes in all of sports.”

“He’s an extraordinary leader and a credit to the Kansas City community, and I’m delighted that he will be a member of the Chiefs for many years to come,” Hunt added.

Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid expressed his excitement at the prospect of coaching Mahomes for the foreseeable future, saying in a statement, “I’ve had the privilege of coaching a lot of incredible athletes and special people in my career, and Patrick is without question on that list of players. The best part is he’s still early in his career.”

Mahomes has been with the Chiefs since 2017 when he was selected by the team as the tenth round draft pick. The Texas native played at Texas Tech before being drafted.

CNN has reached out to Mahomes’ agent for more details on the blockbuster deal.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declares state of emergency, calls up National Guard

Kemp, a Republican, said the executive order follows “weeks of dramatically increased violent crime and property destruction in the City of Atlanta.”

The governor’s statement says more than 30 Georgians were wounded by gunfire over the extended holiday weekend, including five people who died.

One of the five deaths was that of an 8-year-old girl who was shot while riding in a car with her mother and another person. Secoriea Turner was killed Saturday night as the car tried to enter a parking lot that had illegal barricades, police said.

“We’ve had over 75 shootings in the city over the past several weeks,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said when talking about the 8-year-old’s death on Sunday. “You can’t blame that on APD (Atlanta Police Department).”

After the death of George Floyd in late May there were protests in downtown Atlanta, several of which were followed by looting and vandalism.

“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” Kemp said in a statement. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”

The governor’s statement says the National Guard will “provide support” at state buildings like the Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion so state police can increase patrols.

According to CNN affiliate WSB, authorities said 60 to 100 people went to Georgia State Patrol headquarters early Sunday morning and some used bricks or fireworks to damage the building.

Guard troops will also be stationed there, the governor said.

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Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro had coronavirus lung screening ‘but everything is okay’

“I’ve came back from the hospital now, I’ve done a lung screening, my lung is clean, OK? I went to do a Covid exam a while ago, but everything is okay,” he said.

“You can’t get very close [to me], OK? Recommendation for everyone,” Bolsonaro said.

Asked about media reports that Bolsonaro has a fever, Cintia Macedo, a presidential spokesperson, told CNN: “We do not have this information. We do not confirm this information at this moment.”

CNN reported in May that Bolsonaro tested negative for coronavirus in three separate exams that were released to the public. The three tests were administered between March 12 and March 17 after Bolsonaro returned from a bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump in Florida and many in his entourage tested positive.

Brazil is second only to the United States in number of coronavirus infections and deaths. More than 65,000 people have died from coronavirus in Brazil, according to figures released by the country’s health ministry on Monday, and 1,623,284 cases have been confirmed so far.
Bolsonaro has previously appeared in public and at rallies without a mask, even hugging supporters. He has encouraged reopening even as the country’s number of cases rises, and has criticized local governments’ efforts to stamp out the virus through social distancing measures, such as quarantine and shelter-in-place orders.

“Our life has to go on. Jobs should be maintained,” Bolsonaro said in the still-early days of the pandemic, during a March 24 speech broadcast on national television and radio. He has maintained that position, arguing that the economic fallout of lockdown could be worse than the virus itself. He has also continued to occasionally greet supporters without protective equipment — even after a court ordered him to wear a mask or face a fine. The order has since been overturned.

Last week, Bolsonaro vetoed parts of a law that mandates wearing face masks in public during the pandemic. The use of masks in shopping malls, stores, religious temples, educational establishments and other closed places where people gather will no longer be mandatory, though individual states and municipalities can enforce those measures.

Journalists Rodrigo Pedroso and Marcia Reverdosa in São Paulo contributed to this report.

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Oldest GOP senator says he won’t attend RNC due to Covid-19 concerns

The governor of Brazil’s state of São Paulo, João Doria, said on Monday he wants to avoid “the images we saw in Rio de Janeiro and London” after bars and restaurants in the state’s capital city reopened Monday, and therefore strict rules will be in place. 

“We don’t want to see in São Paulo city the images we saw in Rio de Janeiro and London,” Doria said at a news conference, adding that bars and restaurants will have to close by 5 p.m. in order “to avoid crowds.”

Bars, restaurants, and beauty salons reopened with restrictions on Monday in São Paulo, after having been closed since March 24. Dining establishments will now have seating areas after being restricted to delivery and takeout services. 

A decree published by Sao Paulo City Hall establishes that bars and restaurants can operate for six hours a day and with a maximum occupancy of 40% capacity. Establishments, such as shopping malls, that had already been permitted to open in an earlier phase of the reopening plan were allowed to extend operating hours as of Monday.

Last Friday, the Sao Paulo state government also authorized the reopening of theaters, cinemas, cultural events, and gyms in additional regions. 

The state of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous, leads the country in coronavirus infections and deaths. The state registered 10,540 new cases and 56 deaths from novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, according to the state health secretary. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state of São Paulo has recorded 323,070 cases of Covid-19 and 16,134 deaths related to the virus.